20 May 2010

03-12-2002 – INVAP sells its first gamma therapy unit in Brazil : In the field of nuclear medicine, Argentina is no longer a purely annoying competitor but quite a serious opponent.

This last Friday, 22 November 2002, INVAP received the official communication that it had been the successful bidder at the Instituto Nacional del Cáncer (INCA) – National Cancer Institute of Brazil – of the Brazilian Health Ministry for the installation of a gamma therapy unit in the city of Río Branco, state of Acred. This is the first sale of our Teradi 800 within a very hard market that INVAP had been trying to access since 1994.

Brazil’s attraction not only lies in the fact that it is the largest partner in Mercosur. Its public health system requires at least 60 more units just to replace obsolete ones, and no less than 100 additional ones to meet the number recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for a population such as that of Brazil. When multiplying these figures by the price at which the Mossoro Teradi was awarded (USD 300,000 CIF), we may see why Brazil is a market that the radiation therapy unit suppliers of the First World had “kept locked”.

Prior to opening such lock, we had to take care of another within our own domestic market. Nearly twenty years ago, after inspecting the first Teradi 800 model, the representative for South America of the world’s number one firm in the field of gamma therapy systems told us (sic), ‘We shall have to destroy you quickly’.

We cannot say that they did not try, but here we are. Projecting our company from Argentina (where the mentioned firm could not manage to sell a single unit ever since) towards Mercosur.

Since the appearance of INVAP in the South American radiation therapy horizon, the companies that dominated the market were forced to lower the historical averages of their quotations by half. They also had to waive absolutely absurd profit rates. This has undoubtedly improved the chances of thousands of cancer patients throughout the subcontinent to access gamma therapy.

The Teradi 800 unit awarded Río Branco is comparable to the top model of our strongest competitor. Nevertheless, it has always been less costly, even at the 1 to 1 US dollar-peso parity registered throughout the 1990s. Now, with a USD 1 – Pesos 3.5 parity, we are in conditions of stop being purely annoying participants to become quite strong opponents.

Nevertheless, we are aware that quality and price are not the only factors in this business. Since 1994, we have taken part in every radiation therapy congress held in Brazil, colliding against every type of interests, cultural and otherwise. Cultural interests include the fact that a radiation therapist trained and having worked most of his career using a certain make from the northern hemisphere will remain loyal to it and will be contrary to change, a situation which we even experienced within our own country.

Yet another cultural problem is given by the fact that Argentina no longer holds that “technologically-advanced country in the region” status that it used to have in the 1960s. This makes a difference when attempting to convince a buyer from the Brazilian health system – more of a physician than a technologist – that a system made in Argentina may prove to be more advanced that the average supply provided in South America by those who dominated the market not long ago.

It also happened that biddings in which INVAP succeeded were suspended for some strange reason and procurements already decided never materialized.

On account of this, we are cautious at a time for celebration. We have not won any battle, this being just a skirmish, and we lost many of these in the past.

Our only certainties in the case of Brazil are that, more than ever, we have the best combination of technology and price, and we will use this first sale in Brazil as “showroom” to generate others; that we wish to have a local partner that, for example, may assemble units in Brazil with parts fabricated in Argentina; and that we are yielding not only good technology but also something morally right.

On the one hand, we are adding to the Argentine prestige with an export of high added value. On the other, we continue to make radiation therapy more and more accessible throughout the subcontinent.